Thursday, 28 June 2018

Merkel Got a Respit at Home as EU Leader Reach Immigration Deal

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A migration deal patched together by European Union leaders early Friday appeared to have won German Chancellor Angela Merkel a respite in the toughest battle of her political career.
Angela Merkel
EU leaders after nine hours of negotiations agreed to help coastline countries, notably Italy, by redistributing some of the migrants rescued in the Mediterranean, provided they are placed in detention.
In parallel, the EU said it would seek to set up reception centers in North African countries where most migrants rescued at sea would be sent back to. Those centers, called “disembarkation platforms,” will be run together with United Nations agencies that will ensure that people are housed in humane conditions while awaiting repatriation or resettlement to European countries.
This effort is aimed at curbing the migrant influx that fueled the rise of populist parties across Europe, reshaping the political landscape and putting mainstream leaders such as Ms. Merkel under severe pressure.

“Italy is no longer alone,” Italian Prime Minister Giuseppe Conte said at the end of the meeting at which at one point he held up other decisions until an agreement on migration was found.
French President Emmanuel Macron, who played a significant role in brokering the deal, said that the agreement was an important milestone.
“Many had predicted that no agreement would be found and national measures would prevail. Tonight we managed to reach a European solution,” he said.
The deal was held up by Central and Eastern European governments, which opposed any form of migrant quotas and insisted that the system of distribution of migrants brought to EU’s shores be voluntary, according to diplomats familiar with the talks.
Polish Prime Minister Mateusz Morawiecki said he was pleased with the agreement, because migrants would be distributed on a “voluntary basis” and any decisions on the bloc’s asylum system will be taken by consensus among all EU countries.
“It was a long and difficult discussion. I am happy that there are many countries in Europe who insist that the flow of people is reduced,” said Austrian Chancellor Sebastian Kurz, one of the proponents of sending people back to North African shores.
As part of Friday’s agreement, Ms. Merkel obtained pledges from around a dozen countries, including Greece and Spain, to speed up procedures to take back migrants who were first registered on their soil but then moved and applied for asylum in Germany.
“No asylum seeker has the right to choose in which country he will apply in,” said Ms. Merkel. She said there was still “a lot to do to bridge the various points of view” on the bloc’s asylum overhaul.
The agreement is expected to placate the chancellor’s critics from her own conservative bloc at home, headed by the interior minister, Horst Seehofer.

Mr. Seehofer, chairman of the Christian Social Union, the Bavarian sister party to Ms. Merkel’s Christian Democratic Union, handed her an ultimatum that expires Monday. He demanded that the chancellor broker a European deal to keep immigrants at bay, or he would order the unilateral closure of Germany’s borders to some newcomers—a move that would force Ms. Merkel to fire him and trigger a collapse of her fragile coalition.
Ms. Merkel was due to speak to Mr. Seehofer later Friday and their parties are scheduled to meet separately in Berlin and Munich to assess the deal and decide the fate of their fragile coalition.
But even as it is likely that Ms. Merkel will calm the rebels and retain her post, her authority has been eroded during the weeks of acrimony. She called an emergency migration summit of EU leaders who were willing to meet her in Brussels last Sunday, to prevent the collapse of her chancellorship.
The weakening of Ms. Merkel’s position as the bloc’s pre-eminent leader has boosted Mr. Macron, who has styled himself as the continent’s new pro-European voice and deal maker.
Ms. Merkel’s woes began with her 2015 decision to open Germany’s borders to Syrian refugees, which, according to her critics at home and abroad, contributed to a spike in the already large migratory movements from the Middle East and Africa.
Over 1.4 million people have sought asylum in Germany since then, a development that fueled the surge of the anti-immigrant Alternative for Germany, which won nearly 13% at last September’s general election that saw the worst results for Ms. Merkel’s and Mr. Seehofer’s parties.
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